The Duality of Character

The Duality of Character - Shen 1 Richard Shen 2/09/11 Mark...

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Shen 1 Richard Shen 2/09/11 Mark Digiacomo The Duality of Character Character is a dynamic and complex facet of human nature that sets individuals apart. It is an aggregate of features and traits that ultimately determine how an individual acts. However, the simple definition of character is not exactly an appealing topic of discussion. Rather, philosophers such as Steven Johnson and Malcolm Gladwell strive to elucidate how and why character develops. The former, in his essay “The Myth of the Ant Queen”, argues the significance of a hive mentality while the latter argues the importance of environment in influencing character in “The Power of Context”. Whatever the case, it is without doubt that character is ever changing and can therefore be described as a “self-organizing system.” It is important to define a “self-organizing system” as an organism that is capable of changing its structure through experience and adapting to its environment. Steven Johnson offers a comparison to the origins of character development by describing an ant colony. He states that ant colonies “display some of nature’s most mesmerizing decentralized behavior: intelligence and personality and learning that emerges from the bottom up.” (310) Rather than being coordinated by an overarching conscience, the individual ants act as receptors to the environment and together create an “artificial” intelligence. The actions of the ants would be determined by the “patterns in pheromone trails left behind by fellow ants” (321). In essence, in comparison to the hive mentality as a whole, the individual actions of the ants are trivial. Johnson subsequently applies this example to the social phenomenon existent within cities, such as Manchester. He describes the city of Manchester as disorganized assortment of
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Shen 2 buildings and filth at first sight. However, upon closer analysis, he states that “the city seems artfully planned to hide its atrocities” (313) implying that the city itself has a similar mentality to
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This note was uploaded on 02/10/2011 for the course EXPOS 159 taught by Professor Ejc14747 during the Spring '11 term at Rutgers.

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The Duality of Character - Shen 1 Richard Shen 2/09/11 Mark...

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